Membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has not prevented Armenia from forging closer links with the United States and the European Union, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian insisted on Tuesday.
“We are committed to further deepening our friendly partnership with the United States,” Nalbandian said in that regard.
In particular, he pointed to the signing in May 2015 of the U.S.-Armenian Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
“We had been discussing, negotiating on this agreement for almost 20 years,” Nalbandian told a news conference. “I’m glad that when I met with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington two years ago, we agreed to have it signed. And that’s what happened.”
He also argued that earlier in 2015 Yerevan unilaterally lifted visa requirements for U.S. citizens travelling to Armenia. Washington reciprocated by making it easier for Armenians to obtain long-term and multiple-entry U.S. visas.
Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, similarly stated in November that the EEU membership and broader ties with Russia“should not and do not preclude Armenia from also pursuing strong, mutually beneficial relations with the United States, the European Union, and other potential partners.” “These relationships are not mutually exclusive,” Mills said.
Armenia completed its accession to the Russian-led bloc in January 2015, more than one year after President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly announced his decision to join the EEU. The move led the EU to abandon a wide-ranging Association Agreement with Yerevan, which was all but finalized by the two sides.
Nalbandian pointed out that Armenia and the EU began in December official negotiations on an alternative accord that will contain many political and even economic provisions of the Association Agreement. He also said that Armenian and EU leaders will exchange this year more “high-level visits” that could pave the way for “new agreements” on closer ties. He did not elaborate.